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My Thoughts On The Recent Casablanca Controversy...By The Philosopher

1. Two of the main points I look at in evaluating .bad line. cases are .Did the book intentionally hang this line?. and .Is it reasonable to expect this player to know whether this line was intentional or unintentional?.

In this case, my honest answers to both questions based on the available evidence is favorable to Casablanca.s side.

That is, I find it extremely likely that Casablanca is telling the truth when they say they never intended to move to +605, that that was simply a matter of punching in the wrong numbers. I base this in part on my experience with them as a book that has extremely vanilla lines.

Furthermore, I do not believe this player somehow didn.t know that and thought he was betting into an intentional line. He is clearly savvy enough to know this was a mistake; he was just hoping they would consider the error small enough to eat when they became aware of it.

For the most part, I think the posters who are contesting either or both of these points are .playing dumb. because they think if they concede them they will have to agree with Casablanca.s voiding of the bets.

Assessing .bad line. cases requires balancing a sportsbook.s obligation to know what the heck doing and only hang the lines they intend to hang, and a player.s obligation not to exploit someone else.s obvious honest mistakes by holding them to a wager they never intended to offer.

When the answers to my two initial questions are .The book did not hang the line intentionally,. and .The player can reasonably be expected to realize that they did not hang the line intentionally,. then there is a strong prima facie case for the book.

But even these two points are not conclusive. It is still possible for a sportsbook to do enough wrong in a .bad line. case to override these points and make canceling the bet impermissible after all. And that is what I believe happened here.

The main reason I say this is that the bet was cancelled after the outcome was known.

If anything, it makes it worse that they admittedly knew about the bad line before that and chose not to cancel the bets immediately. Certainly I understand the rationale behind doing an .investigation. in order to decide whether to give some of the customers a break and let their bad line bets stand. Some customers may indeed have a history that indicates that they probably honestly had no idea the line was unintentional, and it would be, in my opinion, unjust to penalize them for not being more knowledgeable about such matters. Also, there could be players who knew quite well what was going on here, but that the book decides better off paying because they.ll just lose it back in the long run anyway. That.s an understandable strategic decision.

But when you take your sweet time doing this investigation, and meanwhile the match ends and the bets are winners, as a book you have to deal with the consequences of delaying your decision like that.

And to me, in this case, those consequences are that the bets are no longer voidable.

To grant the book the right to cancel these bets simply opens the door to too much potential abuse. As multiple posters pointed out, it put the book in a position where they could claim .bad line. if the bets won, but keep their mouth shut if the bets lost. I might not go as far as some posters in insisting that they intentionally delayed their decision precisely in order to be able to take this .no lose. shot at their players, but certainly I.m cynical enough that my mind went there as well. And whether that.s what happened or not, the mere fact that ruling for the book would open the door to such abuse is a strong consideration against doing so. (In some contexts this is called .the appearance of impropriety,. and there are times it.s almost as relevant as established impropriety itself.)

The retroactive voiding of the bets is sufficient in my estimation to override the prima facie case for the book. I might feel differently if this were a more extreme case. But while I believe that the line was unintentional, and that the player knew that the line was unintentional, neither of those points is such a slam dunk so as to allow no wiggle room to rule for the player. If the line had been moved to, say, +3000 when +300 was intended, then something like that is probably blatant enough to allow even late cancellation. (I.m too lazy to run a search right now, but if you want to see a very good post on the whole .bad line. question in general, look for the one Bobby posted a few months ago. In it, he made the point that you really need to look at numerous factors in these cases, but that it.s possible for a line to be so ridiculously far off that that fact alone outweighs everything else. If a book hangs Duke +36 when the rest of the world has approximately Duke .36, Bobby says he wouldn.t rule for the player no matter how many times the inept book confirmed that the line was good or how long it took them to finally figure out that it wasn.t. I agree.) But this isn.t such a case. Here the line just isn.t .off. enough for me to be comfortable letting a book void bets after the outcome is known.

Had this come before the Mediation Board as a formal case, I would certainly want to talk to both parties and hear any additional evidence and arguments they could produce. But based just on what has been posted, I believe I would have ruled for the player in the case of voiding bets after the match, and I probably would have ruled for the book if the bets had been cancelled before the match and the players appropriately notified.

Actually, I believe my assessment is quite consistent with The Actuary.s posted opinions on the matter, though maybe I wouldn.t express it quite as harshly.

But in any case, player wins, though both parties are wrong and have little to be proud of here.

2. As implied above, I think Casablanca.s strongest case (though ultimately not strong enough) is that the line was bad and the player knew the line was bad.

I believe their raising of other points against the player.which they proved unwilling or unable to back up with significant evidence.only hurts their case. It smacks of desperation, an attempt to smear the player to get the attention off their own wrongdoing. If the player was bearding in under four or however many names, or was placing $1,000 bets when he was in a position to know that he was only allowed to bet $200 on this kind of event, then certainly that is relevant to whether these bets should be honored. But the multiple accounts accusation was scaled back to the ludicrously mild point that two of the accounts came from the same state, and I think the $200 limit claim was simply dropped, indicating that presumably there was no merit to either of these accusations. That just looks bad.

3. Interestingly, I think I like how this case ended up, but I don.t care for the path it took to get there.

That is, because I believe Casablanca should have honored the bets but because I also believe the player conducted himself dishonorably in taking the shot he did, a compromise where Casablanca pays off the full bet at +435 instead of +605 seems very reasonable. However, I.d prefer that that agreement have been reached without any duress, and this looks more like one of those .settlements. where one side agrees to take less than they believe they are entitled to because they fear that otherwise they will get zero.

(As a side point, as I say, these .settlements. bug me in general. I understand that maybe holding people to them is the lesser of the available evils, but I.m not sure. Surely the duress has some effect on their legitimacy. I once compared it to a mugger handing you back 25% of the money in your wallet in exchange for your signing a contract committing you to not press charges against him or testify against him. If you think he.s unlikely to get apprehended anyway, you might well decide 25% is better than 0. But come on. Can that kind of coerced contract really have any moral or legal force? If a sportsbook.or a player for that matter.steals and then gives just some of the money back on condition that the other party lies and says that.s all their entitled to and the matter is now closed, there.s just something malodorous about that.)

Anyway, were this a Mediation case, I might well have concluded the ruling by saying something like: .Judgment for the Player. Book to immediately pay Player his full wager at +605. However, the Board urges the Player to voluntarily give back a portion of that to render it a payoff at +435, in recognition of the fact that his hands are not clean in this matter either..

So I would rather have seen Casablanca just pay the guy in full. Then if he decides, .Hey, I took a shot here, I.m really kind of in the wrong too; I.ll give them some back as a good will compromise,. I.d be all for that. But when the sportsbook is holding all the money, then regardless of what was explicitly stated in the negotiations, there.s always going to be that undercurrent of .Agree to the +435 or you won.t get any more than we initially paid you.. It.s an agreement made under at least implied duress.

4. I agree with those who are troubled by the posts they perceive as going overboard in praising Casablanca for eventually paying the player. If a book does the wrong thing (as most of us believe was initially the case here) and later fully or partially rectifies this as an apparent strategic decision based on the excessive costs of the bad publicity they are suffering, then better than if they had obstinately refused to concede, and worse than if they had done the right thing to begin with. Let.s leave it at that.

5. Some posters.especially before Casablanca relented and paid the player, but to some extent even now.I believe have decided based on these events that this is a book that is not to be trusted. I want to go over some of my own history with Casablanca (an account of which is also given in my review of this book) as I believe it is relevant to the inquiry of whether Casablanca in general is the kind of book that is dishonest or is prone to look for dubious rationales to wrongfully cancel bets or otherwise cheat players. It will also be relevant to a more narrow point I intend to discuss shortly.

I first signed up with Casablanca for the 2000 football season. Back then, they used to negotiate with each incoming customer a specific package of perks that best fit the player.s betting style and preferences. So, for instance, if you didn.t particularly care about a conventional sign-up bonus, you could forego that and maybe get some kind of reduced vig on certain sports or bet types, a rebate on action or rebate on losses, etc.

Anyway, I negotiated a deal where my main perk was that I could get greatly reduced vig on my bets if I combined them into parlays. That fits my style fine, because I love reduced vig opportunities, and I.m pretty much indifferent to whether I bet the games individually or as parlays.I.ll just bet them in whatever way has the lowest house edge.

I then proceeded to have by far the best football season ever had in my life, before or since. And as good as I was doing overall, I especially was getting lucky at Casablanca. I bet maybe 90% of my plays as the nearly no-juice parlays (I think close to 100% for the regular season, but then I voluntarily gave them a break and switched to regular straight bets for the playoffs). And week after week, whether I was winning, losing, or breaking even at my other books, I always seemed to destroy Casablanca. Furthermore, as my bankroll increased, so did my bet size. So now I was not only achieving a surprisingly high winning percentage there, but the dollar amount became quite substantial as well. In the end, though I don.t have the numbers in front of me, I.m almost sure I won more money from them than I have ever won from a book in one season.

So I was winning big, I was betting much more than they would have guessed I.d bet based on the size of my initial deposit, and I was betting almost exclusively so as to exploit the reduced vig deal they gave me. Also.very important point.this was before I ever started writing reviews, and thus I was not someone that they knew or cared who I was or that they would treat with kid gloves.

So what did they do in that situation? Kick me out? Reduce my limits? Change the vig on my parlays on the grounds that they hadn.t anticipated my exploiting that deal to that extent? Nickel and dime me on fees, treat me rudely, or otherwise send a general message that they.d just as soon be rid of me? Invoke some dubious rule or .bad line. claim to cheat me out of some money as Infinity recently did?

Nope, nothing of the kind. The customer service ranged from very good to clumsy, but at no time did they deal with me in a crooked manner or put any kind of pressure on me. They kept taking my action, they kept paying me with a smile, and I always felt like I was treated well and appreciated as a customer.

I even wrote Dave Johnson an E-Mail at the close of the season, asking him if he wanted to renegotiate the deal for the next season. I explained that I felt of course I had won fair and square, but that if he perceived things differently, I would rather know that and make some arrangement that we both would feel was fair. He immediately responded absolutely not, that they had no complaints about how I had won. He congratulated me on an excellent season, and assured me they wanted to book my action again the next season under the identical deal.

Now quite a bit later, they did indeed terminate my special deal, but it had nothing to do with punishing me for overusing it or for winning too much. They cancelled all those individualized deals across the board when they radically changed their bonuses and promotions policies by replacing everything with a 5% weekly rebate on wins or losses.

So based on my personal experience at least, not only has Casablanca conducted its business professionally and with integrity, but they have done so to a higher degree than the majority of books I have dealt with. And this in spite of how soundly I beat them and how much that was due to my taking advantage of a very generous promotion.

Now that.s just my experience. I.m not saying they have or haven.t screwed over other players. But all I can say is that their voiding a bet on a dubious appeal to the .bad line. rule is not consistent with how treated me. They don.t have a history of looking for angles to steal from their customers, at least not as far as anything experienced.

6. On a related point, note that in my history with them, they had no problem at all with my looking to exploit whatever advantage I could find by combining my plays into nearly no juice parlays. Furthermore, when they first sent around an E-Mail asking for feedback on their proposed change to the weekly 5% rebate, I asked point blank if they regarded it as acceptable behavior for a customer to look for weaknesses in the promotion and try to exploit them by altering his wagering style, or if there was some unspoken understanding that that would be contrary to the spirit of the promotion. Dave Johnson responded that they had examined all the angles pretty thoroughly, and that as a customer I need not restrain myself from betting into the promotion in whatever way I deemed most advantageous.

What this sort of thing told me is that this is a book that understands the hugely important ethical distinction between a player doing something fraudulent to gain an edge, and a player gaining an edge fair and square within the rules. They seemed to understand that a book has no cause to complain about a player seeking to do the latter.which is exactly what players are supposed to try to do after all.and that it should in no way be equated with the former.

Thus I was decidedly disappointed by an element of Dave Johnson.s post that other posters have also called attention to. Apparently in Casablanca.s .investigation. of these players. betting histories, they found no indication that they bet .bad lines. but did find evidence that the player in question in the dispute line shops and only bets lines when they are off the consensus or he perceives there to be value. The post goes on to strongly imply that there is something wrong with this, that it is the same kind of wrong as betting .bad lines,. just to a lesser degree. It was apparently interpreted as a point against the player in deciding whether or not to void his bet and how much to compromise with him.

Well, Casablanca is just plain wrong here. Line shopping, looking for legitimate scalps, etc. is simply not objectionable behavior. Looked at purely from a capitalist perspective, I understand that a value player and a thief may have the same impact on a book.s bottom line, just as a shoplifter and a bargain hunter who only purchases .loss leaders. might have the same impact on a store.s bottom line, but from an ethical perspective they are hugely different. It is wrong for a book to punish value players as thieves, or even as milder versions of thieves. They are doing nothing fraudulent; they are simply trying to give themselves the best shot they can within the rules. A book has no business punishing them by canceling bets it wouldn.t cancel from other players. (For more on this general topic, see my recent article .In Defense of Bonus Whores..)

And not only is Casablanca wrong on this score, but they are reacting inconsistently with how they have reacted to my actions and questions, as described above.

7. Of course when there.s a public dispute on the forums like this and a player is treated in a way that posters disapprove of, it.s natural to think, .Is the book doing this because it is .in trouble.? Are they chiseling a few dollars out of a player because desperate to find any way they can to avoid paying out money they don.t have?.

As long as books operate in unregulated environments, and pooh pooh the idea of setting aside post-up players. stake money in verifiable third party accounts, such concerns are never inappropriate.

But I think you have to look at the facts of each individual case. My assessment here is that Casablanca.s improper use of the .bad line. rule was not part of a pattern of .belt tightening. by cheating players. It seems to have been an isolated error, and one that was subsequently rectified (partly or fully, depending on your opinion of the settlement).

If it increases my concerns at all as to Casablanca.s viability, it does so only to a very, very tiny extent. Just as when it was revealed CRIS was reneging on paying people their promised rebates (which is much worse than what Casablanca did by the way, since a) it was not an isolated case but a general practice of cheating many of their players, and b) they have still never reversed themselves and reimbursed the players) I didn.t think .Uh oh, CRIS is broke,. I also doubt this tells us much about Casablanca.s financial status.

So take note of it and file it away with whatever other evidence comes available as to whether Casablanca is .in trouble,. but don.t overreact to it.

8. Take it for what you will, but I note that Casablanca.s usual defenders have not backed them on this dispute. Shoebox.supposedly currently or formerly associated with Casablanca.can usually be counted on to shill for them at every opportunity, but he stepped up and said they were wrong to void this bet. Ronbets and Reality are two respected posters who have consistently spoken well of Casablanca in the past, yet they have been silent on this matter.

I don.t think Ronbets has been posting much recently anyway, and Reality may well be staying away because of how he perceives he has been treated here lately, so maybe nothing should be read into their silence. But I.d be interested in hearing their take on this dispute, and their current opinion of Casablanca in general.

9. I.d also be interested in hearing more from hockeyguru. He made a post implying that maybe this is part of a more disturbing pattern of behavior from Casablanca after all, but he offered no specifics, just that they have been very inept since April. I suppose this will be one of those guessing game things where supposed to read between the lines, but if this is a book that is clearly going .downhill,. I would like to know the evidence for this. I can.t really say much from personal experience about recent developments at Casablanca, because being a football bettor I haven.t played with them since January, and for that matter used them pretty sparingly this most recent NFL season. But if others are seeing things that concern them, I hope they.ll say what those things are.

10. The Major has raised at least two allegations against Casablanca during this dispute: that they stiffed their software provider, and that they are lying in claiming that these are the only bets they voided on the match in question. What are the grounds for these accusations? Will any evidence or elaboration be forthcoming? (And if the circumstances were identical except that it was an advertising book, would the same accusations have been posted, or for that matter even tolerated from others? This one.s just rhetorical by the way.)

11. I appreciate hearing skyyking.s account of his experience with Casablanca. It doesn.t establish which party is right in this dispute, but when there is a bandwagon effect going on and everyone is praising a book or bashing a book, it.s good to hear the other side. Kudos to Casablanca for the things skyyking mentions, independent of what else doing right or wrong.

12. What a ludicrous suggestion, by the way, that credit players should retaliate against Casablanca by stiffing them. (This may have only come up at The Prescription, not sure it was talked about here.) That.s all the industry needs.vigilante-style stiff artists taking it upon themselves to punish books they think abused the .bad line. rule against someone else. It.s one thing to suggest people not play at a book that has dealt with a customer in a way they deem dishonorable, but to suggest they refuse to pay their legitimate debts to such a book is simply irresponsible.

The good thing is that it.s hard to imagine credit players going along with such an idea.

13. I know there are people who think jjgold.s antics are harmless amusement, but there are times that they are neither. He.s basically Vega (recall his fraudulent attacks on Olympic) with fewer names and thousands more posts, but not everyone gets that he.s a put-on who brings nothing of substance to the forums. While hopefully most regulars know he uses a dartboard to decide which books or posters to praise or bash, newbies especially might think he.s something other than a joke. If I were Casablanca, I.d have to admit that much of the pounding gotten in recent times was not unprovoked or unfair, but I.d certainly say one exception is this idiot.s irresponsible blubbering.

At least Railbird mixes insight with his insanity, and some of his outrageous and unpopular statements happen to be true, no matter how they make books and site owners squirm. jjgold is a pathetic Railbird wannabe who brings nothing whatsoever to the table.

No doubt he.ll be .right. a certain percentage of the time, and a book he praises will continue to earn a good reputation, or a book he bashes will go under or be revealed to have dealt dishonestly with its customers. That.s in the nature of random pronouncements. But as long as he.s allowed to clutter up threads with his joke attacks and defenses, readers need to be reminded that there.s no substance behind any of it.

Whether his shitting all over so many threads is sufficiently harmful to warrant censoring or banning him I.ll leave to others to decide. But I will say that if going to tolerate his drivel when it.s directed against a non-advertising book that it.s temporarily popular to bash, obligated to be just as tolerant when his next nonsensical rant is against an advertising book.

[Well, I completed this article a couple of days ago, and then when I jumped back online tonight I discovered that jjgold was at it again.this time against an advertiser--and there were multiple threads discussing what to do with him, if anything.

Whatever is decided is fine with me. If he.s kept around I hope people will have the good sense to ignore him (except maybe to drop in the occasional reminder to newbies not to take anything he says seriously). If he.s dumped permanently, then all I can say is: Good riddance to bad rubbish.]

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